Pharmacists are facing “a lot of abuse” from Britons struggling to get their hands on lateral flow tests ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations, an industry chief has warned.
National Pharmacy Association chairman Andrew Lane said that supplies of tests remains “patchy” as a shortage threatens to derail people’s New Year’s plans.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Lane said: “I spoke to the managing director of Alliance Healthcare who are our wholesalers that distribute the tests into pharmacies, and she assured me that they are putting out two million a day and we are starting to see that come through.
“It is still very patchy though, so I will say that not every pharmacy today will have a box but most pharmacies in the country will be having a box so we just ask the public to persevere, and also treat us with respect.
“We have had a lot of abuse over the last couple of weeks when the tests haven’t been there, but teams are doing their very best to help the public with this.”
Mr Lane added: “A box will contain I think 54 tests and many of our members are reporting that that box is gone within the first couple of hours of arriving within the pharmacy.”
GP pharmacist Siddiqur Rahman, who works at a surgery in Kent, told The i that one of his colleagues had received verbal abuse from a customer.
Mr Rahman told the newspaper: “Pharmacies have had their staff verbally abused, [received a] barrage of phone calls which have disrupted other routine phone calls from regular patients desperately requesting their repeat medications during the festive period, and Facebook messages slamming the pharmacy and their staff.”
It comes amid calls to give NHS staff priority for lateral flow tests as the shortage continues.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of council at the British Medical Association (BMA), said: “The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has no doubt had a massive impact on demand for lateral flow test kits and PCR tests, however it is vital that the promised new supply of kits are offered to key workers such as health and social care staff as a priority.
“Being unable to get the tests means staff may not be legally allowed to work, and at a time of acute workforce shortages and winter pressures this could be devastating for the care that can be given right across the NHS.”